Baking · Cake

Wedding Cake(s)

As a cake-focused blogger, when you get married the cake is going to be a central aspect of an ceremony. But what happens when you can’t narrow the different types down?

Well, this.

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I knew as a slightly fanatical baker, that I wanted cake to be a central feature of my wedding, and so I decided to have a Great British Bake-Off style cake competition. So I suggested the ideas to my guests, and as you can tell they responded fantastically.

The contestants were asked to bring and decorate  a cake of their choice, with two prize being awarded – one for taste and one for decoration. Here are some of the amazing entries we had!

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Gluten-Free Fruit Cake – Winner of the decoration prize!

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French Chocolate Cake

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Multi-coloured Marble Cake

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Cappuccino Cake

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Guinness Cake

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Victoria Sandwich ‘Bundt-ing’ Cake

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My grandmother’s fruit cake

And obviously every wedding needs the official cake (chocolate of course!)

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Baking · Cake · Central America · Nation Cake Challenge

Mexico: Ricotta, Lime and Vanilla Cake

This delicious cake was taken from the book Wahaca: Mexican Food at Home by the brilliant Thomasina Miers.  One of my favourite restaurants to eat at when in London, she focuses on fresh and simple Mexican street food. This recipe traditionally would use a curd cheese called requeson, however Miers suggests ricotta as a good equivalent. The cake is moist and dense, but surprisingly light and fresh – definitely one to make again!

Ricotta cake 2

Ricotta Cake 1

Ricotta, Lime and Vanilla Cake

Ingredients:

  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 300g ground almonds
  • 65g plain flour
  • grated zest and and juice of six limes
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla essence
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 300g ricotta cheese

Icing:

  • 75g ricotta cheese
  • 30g butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp grated lime zest

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 2 (300°F/150°C) and grease a 24in springform tin ready for use later. Line the base of the tin with greaseproof paper.

Combine the ground almonds, flour and lime zest in a bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together, before beating in the vanilla essence. Mix in the egg yolks one at a time before stirring in the flour mixture. In a different bowl, combine the ricotta and lime juice, before adding to the cake mix and combining well.

Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and then start to fold into the mixture. Use a spoonful to loosen the mixture before folding in the rest, being careful to not take out too much of the air. Place in the cake tin and bake for an hour, until the cake is just set and slightly golden brown. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

To make the icing, beat the butter and ricotta together before beating in the icing sugar and lime zest. Beat with a mixer for several minutes until thick and smooth. Smooth over the cake, and decorate with extra lime zest as required.

Baking · Cake · Nation Cake Challenge · North America

Hawaii: Pineapple, Coconut and Blueberry Upside-Down Cake

As an American state slap-bang in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is a complete contrast to the rest of mainland America (My lack of geographical knowledge in my younger years becomes painfully evident when discussing the Pacific – until I was 11 I thought that Hawaii was somewhere in the Caribbean!). This tropical paradise (Paradise incidently being one of the archepeligo’s nicknames) enjoys ideal conditions for people from sun-seeking tourists to thrill-seeking surfers and volcanologists. Sadly it has one major issue, in that it is about as far as Britain as possible, therefore making a holiday rather impractical.

I plan to visit Hawaii at some point during my life, and at present the dreams of this island make the grey British January weather rather more bearable. When I walk down the cold, dark roads, I picture myself in Hawaii, eating pineapples (the island’s biggest crop), swimming in the warm sea and generally getting the sun I can’t seem to find at the moment!

pineapple upside down cake

The main aspect of this delicious cake, the pineapple is a major export of Hawaii. Whilst it originated in South America, it was introduced to the islands in the early 1990’s, quickly gaining massive popularity. The two largest pineapple companies (Dole and Del Monte) first started their companies on Oahu (the largest albums) and Hawaiian pineapple is still a massive corner of the market to this day. Combined in this delectable cake is the intensely tropical coconut and some added rum and blueberries to give some extra colour and intensity. Eat this cake and you will forever forget the pineapple upside down cakes of yesteryear.

The recipe was taken from  London Bakes (here)

Pineapple, Coconut and Blueberry Upside-Down Cake

Ingredients:

  • 500g fresh pineapple (canned will do at a push, but fresh is so much better!)
  • 20g fresh blueberries
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 100ml coconut milk
  • 50g dessicated coconut
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 30ml rum
  • 165g unsalted butter, softened plus more for the tin
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 185g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 175F.  Line a tin with parchment paper and grease well with butter. Don’t use a springform tin unless you want to spill hot syrup all over yourself…

In a saucepan, heat the coconut milk until boiling, before taking off the heat and stir in the dessicated coconut, vanilla and rum.  Leave to cool whilst you prepare the pineapple.

Cut the pineapple into thin slices (if using canned, then just drain the slices slightly).  Melt the butter and sugar in a frying pan and, when hot, add the pineapple slices and caramelize on each side (this will take about 3 minutes on each side). Remove from the heat, allow to cool and place the pineapple in a layer at the bottom of the cake tin.  Pour over the syrup from the pan.  Add the blueberries to the gaps between the pineapple slices.

To make the cake, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time until combined and then fold in the flour, baking powder and coconut mixture. Pour into the tin and bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean and the top is golden brown. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack, carefully peeling off the parchment paper to expose the fruit topping.

Serve with ice cream or cream.

Baking · Cake

Pear and Pecan Cake (or ‘How I Nearly Killed a Wooden Spoon with a Food Processor)

Good afternoon blogging world. Long time no see.

The reason for this lack of contact is one I’m sure that many foodies face at some point – nothing I’ve tried out really worked. Apart from the very boring chocolate vanilla cupcakes I made for my string group, the other cake (a coffee-turkish delight combination which I’ll be posting about later) had some very mixed results. Whilst the school students loved them (and ate them all in about 10 seconds flat!), Max was not so impressed and said that they tasted savoury… not a good comment for a a sweet cupcake! Back to the drawing board with them.

Parsnip cake

Instead I present this cake, which met with very favourable results. I will say now that this recipe is completely someone else’s invention, coming from the wonderful cookbook Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache by Harry Eastwood. Someone else’s it might be, but it is still very good. The secret ingredient in this cake is parsnip, grated and mixed into the batter in a method similar to that of a carrot cake.

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Making this cake also gave me the excuse to finally find out how the grating attachment on my Kenwood mixer works. This led to a slightly difficult moment when I tried to push the parsnip down with a wooden spoon – fine until the spoon hit the grating attachment. I’m sure you can imagine the rest. Poor wooden spoon.

Pear and Pecan Cake

Ingredients:

  • 3 small pears
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 150g pecans
  • 150g white rice flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 vanilla pod, halved and the seeds removed
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 200g finely grated parsnip
  • 125ml calvados (or if like me this is beyond your local community, cloudy apple juice also works)
  • Icing sugar (to decorate)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Grease and line a 23cm diameter springform tin and set aside.

Peel, core and thinly slice the pears, before sprinkling with lemon juice and setting aside. Grind the pecans in a food processor until very fine, then add the flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla seeds, ground ginger, cinnamon and whizz for another minute until completely combined.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and tripled in volume, before adding in the grated parsnip and the dry ingredients. Mix completely before adding in the Calvados/apple juice to loosen the mixture. Pour half the mixture into the tin and top with half the sliced pears. Pour the remaining mixture over the top and top with the remainder of the pears, arranging them into a pretty floral pattern. Cover with tin foil and bake in the oven for 2 hours. You have read this right, 2 hours. Take it out of the oven and serve with vanilla ice cream.89

Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Cyprus: Aubergine,Walnut and Mint Cake

Flag of Cyprus

This cake is proof that sometimes not reading something properly can actually work in your favour. When researching this cake, I read a passage that talked about sweets made from small aubergines and walnuts. I combined this with fresh mint, one of the iconic flavours of Cyprus and used in almost everything to create this very delectable cake. Going back to my research I noticed a comma – the sweets were in fact made of aubergines OR walnuts, not both.

Having said that, the flavour combination is undoubtedly relevant, and so it earns its place in the blog. Chocolate, as some of you may be shouting at your screens, is not particularly traditional but it results in a wonderfully moist and rich cake, which unlike most desserts actually improves over time, both in taste and texture. The recipe is adapted from Harry Eastwood’s Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache.

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Please do not disregard this cake merely because of the added aubergine. If you do, you will have missed out on one of the most delicious, moist cakes ever created. Maybe just don’t tell veggie-haters the surprise ingredient – they will never guess!

Ingredients: 

  • 2 small aubergines
  • 300g best dark chocolate
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 60g ground walnuts
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 200g clear honey
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 small handful of mint, chopped
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 180 degree C. Grease and line a 9 inch springform tin.
Cook the aubergines by puncturing the skins with a skewer, then placing them in a bowl. Microwave on high for 8 minutes until soft and limp. Discard any water at the bottom and leave to stand until they are cool enough to handle. When cool, skin and puree the aubergines in the blender. Add the warm aubergine to the broken up chocolate, and stir gently to allow the chocolate to melt.
In a large bowl, whisk up all the other ingredients for a minute until well mixed and gently foaming. Add the melted chocolate and aubergine mixture into the bowl and fold in until completely combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and place it in the bottom of the oven for 30 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning it out on to a wire rack and peeling off the parchment. Quickly turn it the right way up again and place on the serving plate. Finish by dusting with cocoa powder and decorating with a sprig of fresh mint.
Baking · Cake · History of Cake · Uncategorized

Positively Medieval – Development in the Middle Ages

The Middle Ages (specifically in England) was a milestone in the development of cake as a specific baked good, as this was the first time that cake and bread became two distinct forms. As discussed previously, the two terms used to be used pretty much indiscriminately, the only differentiation being size. This all changed during this period – now the term cake was used specifically to denote a baked good sweetened with sugar.

A crucial factor in baking of this time was preservation – without the methods of food preservation that we are used to today, foods needed to be able to be stored for a significant period of time. With this in mind, the two cakes that came to the fore were gingerbread and fruitcake. The Roman influence was evident in the importance of fruitcake, which had its roots in the sweetened, fruited bread mentioned last week. These cakes served two purposes – not only were they made to last for several months, they also included ingredients which would mark out the eaters of being wealthy people able to afford such ingredients.

During this period, the function of cake also developed, and it became the main celebratory dish of the period. Cakes became very ornate and elaborate, Chaucer remarking that one cake included 13 kilograms of flour, not to mention copious amounts of of fruit, cream, nuts, sugar and butter – all very expensive ingredients that really marked the owner out as a well-off member of society.

The recipe that follows in an authentic recipe for gingerbread, taken from here.

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Gyngerbrede

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup clear honey
  • 1 small loaf of brown bread, ground into breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • ground cinnamon, to finish

Instructions:

In a small pan, bring the honey to the boil before reducing the heat and allowing to simmer for 5 minutes, ensuring that you skim off any scum that may float to the top. Remove from the heat and add the spices, before mixing in the breadcrumbs a cup at a time.Knead the mixture until thoroughly combined and roll out  to a depth of 1cm. Cut into 1in squares or circles and dust with the remaining cinnamon.

Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Russia: Korolevsky Cake with Vodka Ricotta Frosting

As the largest country on the planet, unsurprisingly Russia has a very varied cuisine, ranging from the European influences on the western side to the Eastern provinces bordering China and the Far East. We could also discuss the central areas, and the multitude of influences to be found there. Basically, finding one cake to represent Russia would be nigh-on impossible – it’s just too big!

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This cake is an example of the Western style of cooking. ‘Korolevsky’ translating as ‘royal’, this cake would usually be found in the imperial cities, eaten by the aristocracy. It is traditionally a three layer cake, each layer made with a different flavouring – chopped walnuts, poppy seeds and cocoa powder. I decided to break with tradition though, creating a marbled version of the cake, which also works well. The recipe is adapted from here, however, I decided to top the cake with a vodka ricotta frosting. Whilst ricotta itself is not Russian, Tvorog (a Russian cottage cheese) is very traditional in the cuisine, and so I wanted to use this influence in my frosting.

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 Korolevsky Cake with Vodka Ricotta Frosting

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 6 extra large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups sour cream
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons vinegar
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted & chopped

Frosting:

  • 1 pound (16 ounces) of ricotta cheese, drained of excess liquid
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup of powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp of vodka

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 380°F and grease 3 sandwich tins. Set aside.

To make each layer of the cake, mix two eggs with one cup of sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add one cup of flour and stir to combine. In a ramekin, mix 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda with 1 tsp vinegar. When it fizzes up, stir into one cup of sour cream which should also start to rise. At this point stir into the cake batter using a spatula.

Split the mixture into 3 parts, adding a different flavouring to each one, either 1 tbsp cocoa powder, 2 tbsp poppy seeds or 1/2 cup of toasted walnuts. Alternate spoonfuls of the three mixtures into a loaf tin (or round if preferred) and use a skewer to swirl the mixtures, creating a marbled effect. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

To make the frosting, mix all the ingredients together until the mixture is thick and fluffy. Use this to sandwich the different layers together, before sprinkling the remaining chopped walnuts and poppy seeds on the top of the cake to decorate.